Our Songs Have Meaning

Hello, my name is Carlos Calica. I come from the Confederate Tribes of Warm Springs. I was asked to come here to share today on the Tribal Rhythms program on Native American drumming and the history of the drumming and singing of the Warm Springs tribes. I am very fortunate to be asked to do this and very honored for my family and my community and people here in Warm Springs as well as people across the United States who share their wisdom and what they’ve been taught as far as the singing and traditional and cultural values that they have and share with one another.

My family, I come out of the Mitchell family, Tewe family, Calica-Sumpter-Sidwaller families, and Tohits. And I’m very fortunate to have grandparents who have taught me to be who I am today and the songs that I sing is for them for they have taught me to sing and provide music for, not only the children but for our elders and for the veterans and other people of the other communities.

I was asked to come here today. I have a song that I would like to sing for the program that was given to us by a brother of ours from the Pendleton area, Fred Hill. What the song talks about is in our Sahaptin language. It talks about how important it is to teach our children the Indian ways. It’s really an important song that I like to sing. A few of our elders respect the song for what it talks about and for teaching our children the Indian ways. To this day I try and teach my children and other young children the importance of their cultural values and who they are. And I’d like to share this song with you right now.

(Drumming and Song)

The drum that I sang on was my grandfather’s drum. After his passing I was given this drum. And I carry this drum in a good way. For as old as it is I put it away. I do not use it a whole lot because of the age and I do not want it to be damaged or anything happens to it for I would like to pass it on to my children and the family so they may keep this drum going.

I was taught to sing at a young age by my grandfather and my grandmother taught me how to dance and sing and be responsible, to respect people, to dance for my people, to sing for my people. I really do look up to others such as Sanders Heath and Wilford Jim, Herbert Stwyer, Grant Clements, George Clements. A lot of them that I’ve looked up to who’s opened their hearts and their drums for me to sing. When we sit down at a drum, we take that oath of brotherhood for we look to each other as family. When we share songs, whether it’s here or other reservations, it’s really good to break bread and open our hearts, be there for one another to sing and share songs.

We have a lot of songs that are shared and sung on a reservation, such as social dance songs, round dance songs, honor songs, songs for chiefs, chief’s honor song, mothers, the women’s honor dance song, the round dance. We sing a lot of these songs. We’re given songs such as the one that I sang and it does have a lotta meaning when you sing these songs to how important it is to teach our people to be who they are and be proud of who they are and what they do.

Carlos Calica

Carlos Calica, who is Wasco, Paiute, and Yakama, is an enrolled member of the Warm Springs Reservation and lives in Warm Springs, Oregon. The last three generations of both sides of the family have been religious leaders and ran the tribal long house. There are 4,500 tribal members, although not all live on the reservation. The reservation is located in central Oregon in a canyon along Tye Creek, which borders the Deschutes River on the boundary of the reservation. Mt. Jefferson can be seen on the skyline. The land is regarded as high desert with plateaus, and has a dry climate with hot summers and cold winters.

As a traditional singer, all the songs that Carlos sings come from his heart. His grandfather, Arthur Mitchell, a World War II veteran, taught Carlos how to sing social and traditional songs for certain ceremonies. His songs share the culture and history of his people. When he makes public presentations, he explains how the Warm Springs people have social dance songs, get together songs, honor songs, vet songs, people coming back songs, songs that tell how to live life, and ceremony songs, including songs for funerals and prayer and laughing songs. Every morning he prays with his children and they talk about what they’re going to do and how they’re going to carry themselves. He teaches them how to respect others, be respected, and be acknowledged for who they are and what they do.

He knows about and discusses and dances of his people. This includes the round dance, war dance, shuffle dance. Elders are reviving social dances such as the bunny hop dance, skip dance, butterfly dance, welcome dance, and the snake dance. There used to be a proposal dance, but it is hardly done anymore.

He makes drums and regalia and at the same time he likes to focus on sharing of culture and keeping things basic.

There are ceremonies at different times of the year for food, water, salmon, roots, berries and meats. Carlos is the designated hunter and fisherman for the tribe. He provides and serves the fish and meat for feasts and funerals every year. All food given by the Creator is celebrated. Carlos is learning to be a leader for the long house.

Carlos is on various committees, works for Credit Enterprise, on the board of directors at Credit Enterprise, worked in employment to recruit Native Americans to work in the iron works industry, is on the apprenticeship committee in Warm Springs for plumbers, electricians and auto mechanics. He helps people succeed. In the summer he volunteers to mow and clean yards. He is also active in the Miss Warm Springs Pageant. Carlos believes that they are the ambassadors for the people.

Carlos Calica
PO Box 524
Warm Springs, OR 97761
541-553-3201 msg